President Hennigan addresses tuition recommendations at SGA meeting

Written By Alexis Bonifate

President Paul Hennigan took time this week to talk with the legislative body about the ongoing tuition discussions being held amongst the student body. 

On Feb. 2, the Student Government Association (SGA) sent their “SGA Action on Tuition Increase” to the entire Point Park community. This action was a resolution voted on by the legislative body in the prior meeting that held that the SGA recommends three notes pertaining to the issue. First, the recommendation that tuition does not increase for the 2021-2022 academic year on the basis of the financial hardships of the pandemic and limited resources available to students via the federal government. The second recommendation was that there be increased transparency on how tuition be allocated within the university. Third, the legislative body recommended that any future increases are “paired with a comprehensive justification and explanation for this increase,” the idea being that this recommendation would lay the groundwork for successive years of tuition transparency. 

Hennigan addressed all three concerns within this meeting. On the tuition increase issue, he made note of the existing available resources to students in having aid and help to pay for school. 

“98% of all Point Park University undergraduates receive very generous financial aid scholarships through a variety of formats,” Hennigan said. He explained that there are four main types of scholarships awarded; academic, merit, talent and need-based scholarships. 

The Office of Financial Aid also offers the Financial Aid Appeals process for students who may be struggling to pay for the cost of attendance. The university is also expected to be receiving a currently undetermined amount of aid within the next round of the Federal Government Cares Act that can be awarded to those students who have filled out a FAFSA and applied via PointWeb. At this time, the date and timing for this next round is unknown but anticipated. 

Concerning tuition increases, President Hennigan expressed why the administration believes this is necessary for the next academic year. 

In the current academic year, the university is incurring an operating budget loss of between $5 to $7 million. This is due to a decrease in enrollment, a downsize in the number of on-campus residential students and the increase of costs incurred by the university to make the school suitable for safe in-person academics and remote learning options. 

“We’re projecting another budget loss for next year. The university’s operating cash reserves will be used in the most prudent manner possible to cover that. That’s how we are able to do just a 4% increase and nothing greater,” Hennigan said . 

Also in attendance at the meeting was Bridget Mancosh, the Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations of the university. She presented the first model of the 2021 fiscal year budget in a pie chart format that addressed some of the tuition transparency concerns. 

For the third recommendation, President Hennigan expressed that as the University President Search Committee process moves forward to the Board of Trustees, he will suggest to them and the new president to further discuss tuition transparency in the future with the legislative body.

President of SGA, Dennis McDermott, thanked Hennigan and Mancosh for their attendance but expressed to the senators that this discussion is far from over. 

“If we still have enough unanswered questions or if this is something we are still really pushing for, we can bring him [President Hennigan] back,” McDermott said. “He has enough time for us. I guarantee it so just keep that in mind if that’s something that students want, that is something we can have.”

In the course of the meeting, an emergency funding resolution was voted on for a student organization on campus. Treasurer Kasey Newman brought to the floor emergency funding for the Black Student Union in the sum of $579.07 for events that will occur this semester. Without discussion, this emergency funding was approved.

In the reports of the senators, several topics were discussed including the inconsistency between treatment of students in remote and on-ground classes, a new multicultural student organization, and talk of a virtual town hall for School of Communications students to express concerns. 

One senator reported how as an entirely remote student this semester, they have allegedly experienced some unfair treatment when it comes to the classwork expected from them compared to the classmates on-ground. One such example they provided was a professor assigning a multiple choice quiz/test to on-ground students and the remote students receiving an entirely essay-based version of this quiz. President McDermott and Vice President Bryce Hazlett expressed their disdain for this situation and suggested to have further conversations with Acting Provost Dr. Jonas Prida about this topic. 

Senator TJ Graise reported on the successful introduction of a new multicultural organization. The newly reorganized Equity and Inclusion Office as well as several students are forming a Multicultural Leadership Council that will meet to discuss plans for a new center of multicultural relations on campus. 

Senator Jordyn Hronec reached out to Dean of the School of Communications, Bernie Ankney, and the Chair of the Faculty, Thom Baggerman, to set up a town hall event to address some internal concerns within the school. 

“A lot of students have had experiences with specific faculty members where they have felt like they have been manipulated emotionally or mentally based on faculty members using their personal connections and expertise as leverage,” Hronec said.

The meeting ended with the open floor discussion about the Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Committee and their supposed lack of concern or consideration for the role that they play, as reported by several senators in virtual attendance of the committee’s meetings. This discussion is on-going, and it was expressed that future meetings will occur to talk about SGA’s position in reforming this committee.


Disclaimer: Jordyn Hronec is the Editor-in-Chief of The Globe.